Feb. 11, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The eyes of the collegiate track world will be on the Tyson Invitational this weekend, where the South Carolina track and field program will test itself against 18 teams ranked in the top 25 and a host of other top programs from coast to coast. The meet runs Feb. 12-13 at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
The events of the weekend will be broadcasted on the SEC Network +, which is available through WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app for mobile devices.
The Gamecocks will look to lean on the experience they gained last weekend at the Armory Track Invitational in New York City. Between the men and women, 17 season-best marks were recorded and five different athletes posted times and marks that put them in to the top 10 all-time in six different events. In the final team scoring, the men placed second overall and the women took third.
The weekend started with qualifying rounds for the 60m dash and 60m hurdles. The Gamecocks put finalists through in the men’s and women’s dash (David Winters and Gabby Gray, respectfully) and the men sent three on to the finals for the 60 hurdles. Dondre Echols led the way with a new season-best time of 7.73 seconds, followed by Isaiah Moore and Jermaine Collier.
Drew Trusty provided the team’s first points of the weekend from the track, coming in the 5000m. He would shave over 20 seconds off his previous season best, finishing seventh overall with a time of 14:43.24. That moved him all the way up to fifth in program history, and it was the second-fastest 5K by a Gamecock since the year Trusty was born (1992). Wrapping up the day one men’s track scorers were Otis Jones and Jussi Kanervo in the 500m. Jones would score big with a second-place finish, and Kanervo came in fifth.
In the field events, three other men scored for Carolina. Josh Awotunde led the way with a second-place finish in the men’s shot put with a top throw of 60 feet, three inches. Richard Fish placed fourth in the pole vault, and Michael Wamer scored with a seventh-place finish in the long jump and a new personal best. His mark of 7.23 meters also moved him into the program’s top 10, giving this current team three of the top 10 individual marks in history.
For the women, it would not be just Gabby Gray who had a positive result on the track. The trio of Aliyah Abrams, Briana Haith and Erika Rucker wowed with a dominant performance in the 400m. Rucker led the way with a second-place finish in 53.09, Abrams came second at 53.62 and Haith rounded it out by crossing sixth. Rucker’s time puts her comfortably 11th nationally, giving South Carolina two of the top 15 quarter-milers in the country. Also in the running events, freshman Allie Mueller posted the fifth-fastest 1000m time in program history, running in 2:58.85.
Capping off the day one scorers, Carolina scored in both women’s field events. Nakita Gray was the top collegiate finisher in the high jump invitational, hitting five feet, 11 1Ã…Â½4 inches. In the long jump, Natasha Dicks hit a new personal best and took third overall. Her top mark of 19 feet, 8 1Ã…Â½4 inches also put her ninth in program history, giving her top 10 marks in both horizontal jumps so far in her career.
David Winters overcame a pair of roadblocks to earn a big win in the 60m dash to get the men started for the day. Despite suffering from a bout of food poisoning and a false start by an opponent off the first gun, Winters went out and ran a 6.71 to take home the team’s first win of the weekend. The women also scored in the 60, as Gabby Gray came in eighth with a time of 7.58.
The men had a big chance to make waves in the team scores heading into the 60m hurdles finale after putting three in to the field Friday. Dondre Echols posted the trio’s top finish in fourth place (7.78 seconds), followed by Jermaine Collier in sixth (7.90) and Isaiah Moore in seventh (7.92). The top five finishers in the race were separated by just eight thousandths of a second.
Wrapping up the sprints Saturday was the 200m. Carolina put a finalist in the men’s and women’s races; Maiya Dendy would be the top female qualifier and Ncincilili Titi had the third-best qualifying time among the men. In the finals, Dendy ran 24.19 to take third overall, and Titi came second with a time of 21.23.
It was also relay day in The Armory, with the men running the 4×2 and 4×4 and the women trotting out 4×2, 4×4 and 4×8 teams. The 4x2s started the day, both the men and women earned places on the podium. The women’s quartet of Alexis Murphy, Ahtyana Johnson, Milan Parks and Funlayo Oluwole finished third (1:38.64) and the men’s team of Greg Chiles, Ryan Bermudez, Markus Leemet and DeVon Lewis took second (1:26.68).
The women’s 4×8 team joined the record-setting group in their run late in the day. The team of Allie Mueller, Irene Vian, Maya Evans and Meri Heneage ran fifth overall with a time of 9:27.69. It puts them in fourth in school history, with the second-best time since 2005.
In the field events, Natasha Dicks continued to tear up the runway at The Armory, hitting a second personal best in as many days. This time it would come in the triple jump; her top mark of 42 feet, six inches put her in second place for the day and moved her up a notch to fourth in program history, passing Radiance Basden’s 2012 mark of 43-3 1Ã…Â½4.
The men went 3-for-3 in field event scorers, led by Tye Williams’ third-place finish in the high jump invitational. Clarence Gallop returned to his first competition since Jan. 16 and finished fifth in the weight throw, and Michael Wamer claimed sixth in the men’s triple jump.
Closing out the meet were the 4x4s. Both the men and women needed top times to keep pace in the crowded team standings, and they would do just that. The women earned crucial points with a big win, crossing with a season-best time of 3:34.24. Erika Rucker out-kicked her Miami counterpart to come from behind and take the win in the final leg. The men finished third to also score, posting a time of 3:13.17.
Along with the SEC Network + broadcast, live results are available for the meet and fans can also follow the team’s results on Twitter at @GamecockTrack.